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Palestineians Fail to Win a Pledge from Baker on Entity in Territories

Two Palestinians who met here Tuesday with Secretary of State James Baker apparently failed to win a commitment from him that the United States would press for a Palestinian entity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

But during a news conference Wednesday the Palestinians would not say what Baker told them during the State Department meeting.

The Bush administration is officially on record against a Palestinian state.

The Palestinians also said they urged Baker to continue his efforts to bring about a Middle East peace conference. “We believe that the United States, as a power ready to use force in certain places,” cannot abandon its responsibilities to seek peace, said one of the Palestinians, Faisal to seek peace, said one of the Palestinians, Faisal Husseini.

The other, Hanan Mikhail Ashrawi, warned that if the situation is allowed to drift, “it will degenerate into conditions of tremendous violence, tremendous hostility, tremendous bitterness.”

At a news conference Monday, President Bush said the United States will continue the peace effort. But he said the time has come for “more progress,” especially on the procedural details of a peace conference.

Bush warned both Israel and the Arab countries that if there is no progress, he will go before the American people and assess blame for the deadlock.

Ashrawi left no doubt that the Palestinians believe it is Israel that is blocking progress. “It is not a sin of omission, it is a sin of commission,” she said.

The two Palestinians issued a statement that they were designated by the Palestine Liberation Organization “to engage the U.S. administration in these talks.” Both have been part of Palestinian delegations that met with Baker on his recent visits to Israel.

The United States broke off a formal dialogue with the PLO in Tunis over a year ago after the PLO refused to condemn an unsuccessful terrorist attack on a Tel Aviv beach in May 1990.

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